Two new artificial turf fields and other upgrades are planned at Thomas Haney secondary.

Deadline looms to vote against for rec facilities in Maple Ridge

Critics say alternative approval process flawed

The deadline is Monday at 4 p.m. for the end of the city’s alternative approval process to borrow a combined $49.5 million for eight parks and recreation projects.

The process allows taxpayers to vote against any or all of the eight projects, and if 10 per cent of eligible voters are against a project, and 5,828 voters sign a response form, city hall would have to take that borrowing bylaw to referendum before proceeding.

The projects:

• $23.5 million for an ice sheet addition at Planet Ice;

• $8.5 million for a new Albion Community Centre to replace the demolished Albion Hall, to be located on the same site as a new elementary school on 104th Avenue set to open in September 2019;

• $7 million redevelop Telosky Stadium/Thomas Haney secondary school field complex to a synthetic surface across two fields, upgraded lighting, and reorient and light grass fields at the site;

• $3.5 million upgrade for the 37-year-old Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, including upgrading pool tanks and support systems, including change room and lobby renovations;

• $2.5 million Hammond Community Centre upgrade for the 1970s vintage hall, daycare and lobby, with new support buildings for the sports fields and outdoor pool included;

• $2.5 million Maple Ridge Secondary track and field facilities improvements including lighting, spectator seating and change rooms;

• $1 million Whonnock Lake canoe and kayak facility upgrade for training space, boat storage and other improvements;

• $1 million for two Silver Valley pavilions as neighbourhood meeting places to encourage community activities such as barbecues and outdoor gatherings.

Forms are available at city hall, or on the city website.

The process has its share of critics.

Ernie Streifel said he does not agree with the negative option process, calling it “something I would expect to see in Russia, or some place where they’re going to put this thing through.”

“It’s really, really weighted one way,” he said, adding there is no inconvenience for those who want to approve the projects.

Council watcher Jesse Stretch said he is also opposed to this process.

“It’s like reverse billing – which is illegal unless you’re the government,” he said.

Michael Felgner said the process is not democratic, even though he generally supports more recreation spending.

“Time to take a much closer look at the ‘alternative approval process,’ also known as the tacit consent model,” he said in an online post. “I find it draconian at best.

“Yes we need parks, parkettes and more infrastructure, but the issue is not what they want to do, but how they are doing it,” added Felgner. “This process is bad, and very undemocratic in nature.”

City hall spokesman Fred Armstrong said referendums are expensive, so the alternative approval process is allowed under the Community Charter as a less expensive option to obtain approval of electors. He said the process a city must follow is straightforward and prescriptive, and the city is following it.

Armstrong noted the approval process followed a long period of public input. While some negative opinions about the projects are now being heard, “on the flip side you have all the sports organizations who were involved at the start of this process.”

He said the amounts quoted for the projects represent maximums, and city hall staff will apply for grants once they have loan authorization for each item.

“It’s like getting a pre-authorized mortgage, and then you go house hunting.

“It sets the stage for these projects to go from concepts to detailed designs,” he said.

Corporate officer Laura Benson said there is no ongoing count of results, or the number of response forms collected.

Benson said the forms will be counted as soon as possible, but given it is an unfamiliar process, she could not predict when the results will be known.

If results are close to 5,828, she said there may need to be verification of addresses, voting eligibility and ensuring people only voted once.

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